F1’s 2026 revolution: The surprising verdict on wheel size

In a pivotal decision for Formula 1’s forthcoming regulatory transformation starting in 2026, Pirelli has emerged victorious in a subtle yet critical contest to maintain the use of 18-inch wheels, amidst considerations for a shift towards smaller wheel sizes to reduce the significant weight of contemporary F1 cars. This was reported by Auto Motor und Sport, indicating that the sport’s exclusive tyre supplier mounted a successful defense against the proposition to downsize to 16-inch wheels.

Correspondent Michael Schmidt conveyed, “There will be some changes in the width of the tyres,” highlighting that, although the wheel diameter remains unchanged, there will be modifications to the tyre’s proportions. Pirelli’s argument centered on the advantage of larger wheels in mitigating overheating risks. As a form of compromise, the front tyres will be slightly reduced in width for the 2026 season, aiming to lower drag in response to the new engine regulations that emphasize higher energy efficiency.

Furthermore, the decision to stick with 18-inch tyres ties back to their greater relevance to conventional road vehicles, simplifying the transition for teams from the existing regulations to the forthcoming framework, thereby also offering potential cost savings.

“Pirelli wants to start testing with the 2026 tyres as early as September this year,” Schmidt disclosed, indicating an early kickoff for preparations towards the new era.

Additionally, Formula 1 is contemplating the introduction of an IndyCar-inspired ‘push to pass’ system by 2026, which would temporarily enhance top speeds, potentially by up to 10kph, at crucial overtaking junctures similarly to the current DRS system.

Amidst the anticipation for the regulatory overhaul, McLaren’s Lando Norris reflected on the competitive landscape, suggesting, “I think for things to really change, we’ll have to wait until 2026.” He further acknowledged Red Bull’s current supremacy within the 2022-2025 regulation period, stating, “I expect that Red Bull, as the team they are, will always have an advantage because they are already so far ahead.”

GMM

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